What is the color of depression?

In this blog we will explore what the color of depression is. 

We will also briefly explore if depression impacts the way we perceive colour and  if colours impact mental health. 

What is the color of depression?

The colours that are most associated with depression include darker and cooler tones like darker blues and purples as well as colours like black and greys. 

Color psychology finds depressing colors that are dark and muted, like black and grey including neutral colors like brown and beige which can also evoke depressing emotions. 

We use colours to represent the way we feel. For example, we use warmer tones like yellows and muted oranges to describe business, warth, happiness and contentment. 

Whereas cooler hues are more often linked to feelings of sadness or distress, hence the common term “feeling blue.”

In some cases, the colour grey is also used to represent the mental state of people with depression and anxiety according to an article for the Manchester Color Wheel published in the open access journal BMC Medical Research Methodology.  

The manchester colour wheel has been proposed by researchers as a tool which can be used to study people’s preferred pigment in relation to their state of mind. 

Researchers, on observation, found that people often describe their experience of depression and anxiety with the color grey or black. 

Can depression impact the way you see color?

Research and study of the past two decades have made important strides in understanding how color and human psychology are linked to each other. 

While it is generally known that colors can have an impact on human psychology based on color psychological research, in a 2011 research, findings have suggested that depression can impact the way we see color. 

In a study by two researchers Jonathan R. Zadra and Gerald L. Clore that sought to understand the link between Visual perception and emotion found that emotions impact our overall perception including the way we see color. 

The researchers found that people with depression tend to experience or perceive color as less vibrat and more muted than people who are not depressed. 

The reasoning behind this was demonstrated by a 2010 study where 40 patients with depression and 40 patients without were evaluated to understand if there was any difference in they perceived color by comparing PERG scans. 

The researchers used pattern electroretinogram (PERG) to understand the differences and found that participants’ perceptions did in fact have physical contrast and differences in the way they saw color.

The results of the study found that depressed patients both medicated and unmedicated displayed dramatically lower retinal contrast gain. 

The more depressed they were or the more severe the depression was the lower the retinal contrast gain was which led to being unable to accurately see black and white contrasts.

The colour grey is also used to represent the mental state of people with depression and anxiety according to an article for the Manchester Color Wheel published in the open access journal BMC Medical Research Methodology.  

The manchester colour wheel has been proposed by researchers as a tool which can be used to study people’s preferred pigment in relation to their state of mind. 

Researchers, on observation, found that people often describe their experience of depression and anxiety with the color grey or black. 

Based on the research and study cited above there is some evidence that supports the idea that depression and mental health conditions can impact color perception however there is still need to study how and why this happens. 

Can colors impact mental health?

According to color psychology, different colors can have a direct impact on our emotions. 

Color psychology refers to the area of study that seeks to understand the role of color in relation to human psychology- mental states, behaviours, and emotions. 

This field of study seeks to understand how color impacts human decision in our day to day life for example our behaviours and patterns of thinking, decision making, as well as feelings. 


According to color psychology, the way colors affect emotions and behaviours depends on various factors such as the color’s brightness, tint, tone, shade, and whether the color is cool or warm-toned.

Warm-toned colors are thought to evoke feelings of happiness, optimism, and energy and are linked with positive feelings and mental states where as cool colors on the other hand, like purple, blue, and green, can evoke feelings of sadness,

Color psychology finds depressing colors that are dark and muted, like black and grey including neutral colors like brown and beige which can also evoke depressing emotions. 

Let us take a look at a few colours and see how it impacts mental states:

Black Colors

Black is the hallmark color of sadness and is usually associated with mourning, hence it brings up feelings of sadness as well as fear due to its association with the dark or the unknown. 

Blue Colors

Lighter shades of blue are associated with calmness and spirituality whereas darker shades of blue can create feelings of dejection, depression and leave people feeling cold, disengaged. 

Too much blue can also come across as cold, uncaring, and can dampen creating negative feelings such as feelings of melancholy, sadness, self-righteousness, and self-centeredness. 

Grey Colors

Grey is a dull, moody color that affects the mind and body by causing unsettling feelings of sadness and depression and also brings about feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Grey is also considered an unemotional color and can lead people to feel detached or neutral and the closer the color grey gets to black the more dramatic and depressing it becomes. 

Green Colors

Green can be soothing, healing, and even relaxing with the right amount. It can also help alleviate feelings of anxiety, depression, and nervousness- making people feel calmer and more comfortable. 

However, too much green can cause feelings of  laziness, moody and also make one feel rejected, isolated, and depressed. 

Purple Colors

Purple is associated with feelings of spirituality, fulfilment, calmness, and nurturance. It can feed tendencies that encourage creativity and imagination, excitement and joy.

However, dark purple produces feelings of sadness, gloom and too much purple can be associated with irritability, impatience, and arrogance. Whereas too little purple can make people feel powerlessness, negativity, and apathy.

Beige Colors

Beige is a neutral color and evokes feelings of sadness, gloom, and even boredom. Because of its neutrality, the color beige is usually used as a background, however too much beige can be associated with irritability, powerlessness and boredom. 

Red colors

Red is often associated with a lot of feelings like anger, frustration, and danger as well as feelings of passion, romance, love. According to color psychology, it is believed that the red color tends to make people feel an increase in appetite which is why restaurants use the color red often. 

Yellow colors

Yellow colors and colors that are within the yellow family are believed to bring it feelings of happiness and excitement, a sort of innocent and childlike joy.

Conclusion

In this blog we explored what the color of depression is. 

We also briefly explored if depression impacts the way we perceive colour and  if colours impact mental health. 

FAQ related to Color of depression

What is the color that represents depression?

The colours that are most associated with depression include darker and cooler tones like darker blues and purples as well as colours like black and greys. 

Color psychology finds depressing colors that are dark and muted, like black and grey including neutral colors like brown and beige which can also evoke depressing emotions. 

What is the Colour of sadness?

Color psychology finds depressing colors that are dark and muted, like black and grey including neutral colors like brown and beige which can also evoke depressing emotions. 

What is the colour of loneliness?

Grey is a dull, moody color that affects the mind and body by causing unsettling feelings of sadness and depression and also brings about feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Is purple the color of depression?

Purple is associated with feelings of spirituality, fulfilment, calmness, and nurturance. It can feed tendencies that encourage creativity and imagination, excitement and joy.

However, dark purple produces feelings of sadness, gloom and too much purple can be associated with irritability, impatience, and arrogance. 

What is the best color for mental health?

Lighter shades of blue are associated with calmness and spirituality. Green can be soothing, healing, and even relaxing with the right amount. It can also help alleviate feelings of anxiety, depression, and nervousness- making people feel calmer and more comfortable. 

What is meant by color psychology?

Color psychology is the study of how certain colors and certain hues impact human behaviour. Its origin is associated with Carl Jung who was one of the pioneers of this particular field of study. 

According to color psychology, the way colors affect emotions and behaviours depends on various factors such as the color’s brightness, tint, tone, shade, and whether the color is cool or warm-toned.

References

Carruthers, H.R., Morris, J., Tarrier, N. et al. The Manchester Color Wheel: development of a novel way of identifying color choice and its validation in healthy, anxious and depressed individuals. BMC Med Res Methodol 10, 12 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2288-10-12

Thorstenson, C. A., Pazda, A. D., & Elliot, A. J. (2015). Sadness impairs color perception. Psychological Science. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/0956797615597672

Zadra JR, Clore GL. Emotion and perception: the role of affective information. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci. 2011;2(6):676-685. doi:10.1002/wcs.147

Bubl E, Kern E, Ebert D, Bach M, Tebartz van Elst L. Seeing gray when feeling blue? Depression can be measured in the eye of the diseased. Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Jul 15;68(2):205-8. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.02.009. Epub 2010 Mar 31. PMID: 20359698.

7 Sad Colors At Home That Affect Your Mental State. North American Mental Health Professional Advice Council (NAMPAC). Retrieved on 21st March 2022. https://www.namhpac.org/7-sad-colors-at-home-that-affect-your-mental-state/

Holcombe, A. O., Brown, N. J., Goodbourn, P. T., Etz, A., & Geukes, S. (2016). Does sadness impairs color perception? Flawed evidence and faulty methods. F1000Research, 5, 1778. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.9202.1

Depressed people feel more grey than blue. Science Daily. Retrieved on 21st March 2022. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100208211926.htm

Depression May Affect the Way You See Color. PsychCentral. Retrieved on 21st March 2022. https://psychcentral.com/depression/decreased-perception-of-color-in-depression

Depression: The Connection between Color Perception and Mood. NICABM. Retrieved on 21st March 2022. https://www.nicabm.com/depression-the-connection-between-color-perception-and-mood/

Please give us feedback

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.